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Photographs by Russell Lee (1903 – 1986)


Born in Illinois, United States, in 1936, Lee's original ambition lay in chemistry, obtaining a degree in chemical engineering from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. During his time in Pennsylvania during the 1930s, Lee began photographing the state's coalminers and their working conditions. Hired by Roy Stryker's Farm Security Administration in fall 1936, Lee hit the road for prolonged periods, travelling throughout Texas and Mexico. His work, capturing the plight of tenant farmers, migrant workers and sharecroppers afflicted by the Great Depression. Lee's distinctive photography, including an extraordinary set in color of Pie Town, New Mexico, frequently appeared in LIFE, Look and Fortune magazines.

As the United States entered World War II in the early 1940s, Lee would document the internment of Japanese Americans, before joining Air Transport Command, taking aerial and ground surveillance photographs. After the war, Lee moved to Texas to continue his work and teaching until his death in 1986.